May 18, 2020
The Art of Listening With Oscar Trimboli
Joshua: So, we've got Oscar Trimboli here today. Depending on your dialect and he's joined us both on the YouTube channel as well on the podcast. So if you are watching this on YouTube, welcome! Congratulations! If you're not and you're on the podcast, well jump across to the YouTube channel and vice versa. Now that the formality is out of the way, Oscar, tell us a bit about what you do.
Learn more about the art of listening at dorksdelivered.com.au
Oscar: G'day, Joshua. I'm actually looking forward to listening to some of your questions today. I'm on a quest to create 100 million deep listeners in the world. So I spend all my days teaching organisations, leaders, customer care teams, sales teams, people who are accountants and lawyers how to listen, and most people aren't conscious of the cost of not listening til they lose a great staff member or they lose a great customer because they haven't paid attention and they haven't listened, so the cost of not listening is project over-runs, projects over-budget or worst still projects that come in on time and on budget but they don't deliver to what people were actually asking for in the first place. So, Joshua, all my day's spent absolutely obsessed with the commercial cost of not listening.
Joshua: That's cool. I know my dad always used to say, "We're born with two ears and one mouth and use them in that ratio", so listen twice as much as you're talking but I understand you've got a different ratio that you work with, is it the 125-400 rule?
Oscar: Yeah, I think if we understand the neuroscience of listening that we speak at 125 words a minute, we can listen at 400 words a minute, so we're programmed to be distracted before we even begin. In fact, for some of you, it's happening right now. You've already got bored with me and you're thinking about something else. So you might be distracted by something during your commute, whether you're driving, or on a plane, or on a train or on a bus.
For most of us, what we need to get better at with our listening is simply to notice when we're distracted. I'm not a perfect listener, far from it but what I do notice is I notice faster than anybody else when I'm distracted in the conversation. Most of us turn up to a conversation with our own radio station playing in our head. We're tuned into our own frequency, so we're not available to actually listen to the other person, so if you know that you can listen at up to 400 words a minute, try and notice sooner rather than later when you get distracted, jump back into the conversation, focus in what's being said.
Joshua: Cool. I know that I guess you don't know what you don't know until you know what you know and that's a big part of what you're teaching. People are born thinking they can listen, but obviously that's not the case. As time's going on, we're getting more and more distractions throughout our world. I know in the digital world, you can comfortably have 300 to 500 distractions a day just through advertising, let alone hearing your wife yell out or your kids yell out saying, "Dad, come do this" or "Help me out with the dinner" or something like that. "Take the bin out" and you're meant to be doing something else and focusing.
So, dive a bit deeper I guess into how you ... what's the process there that you go through? We're getting a bit of rain here so if you can hear that on your end, we might have to move location. But yeah, what's your process to keep in check and make sure that your finger is on the pulse and your focus is on the primary ... not on the rain, that was perfect timing by the way. The distraction of the rain. Very clever.
Oscar: Well, Joshua, here's something we all need to know, listening's our birthright. At 30 weeks, we can distinguish our mother's voice from any other sound outside of our body. At 32 weeks, we can distinguish Beethoven from Bon Jovi from Beiber, so we can access music differently yet, the minute we're born, in fact, it's the moment we're born, the minute we scream is the definition of when the time goes on our birth certificate.
So, we come into the world kicking and screaming and making noise and we spend the rest of our lives thinking that's the way we need to communicate. Now communication's 50% speaking, 50% listening. Most of us don't get it in that proportion. We kind of go one way or we go the other. So, I would say to everybody, "You are a deep listener. You just have to unlearn all the things you've learned since you were born about making sure all the attention is through your speaking".
For a lot of us, we struggle with listening to ourselves. Most listening literature will teach you focus on the speaker. They're the most important person. That's handy information but if you're coming into a conversation and thinking, "Oh, I've just hung up the call and I'm thinking about the last call" or "I'm thinking about the next call" or "I'm moving from meeting to meeting" or "I'm jumping in the car, and going to make a call, then I'm going to make another call", we have got a whole dialogue going on in our head and we're not actually available to listen because we can't process their frequency because we're blocking them with our own internal radio station.
So, 86% of people struggle with distractions when it comes to listening. Just getting focused on the speaker, that's not their issue. They have external distractions, whether that's rain in the background for you, or a thunder storm with someone I was interviewing once in Florida and there were lightening bolts you could see in the back window and they were an expert on presence and they did a beautiful job of ignoring the lightening bolts. They were so loud, you could hear them through the microphones.
86% of us struggle with a conversation already in our heads so we struggle with a combination of internal distractions and external distractions. Joshua, if there's three tips that really make a difference for everybody I work with are these three tips: switch your phone off, switch your laptop off or switch them into flight mode. Take off everything that buzzes, beeps and dings.
If you can do that, you'll increase your listening productivity by 50% immediately, just doing that, but most of us are addicted to our devices. It reminds me of a story when Peter, a vice president from Microsoft back in 2014, I was hosting a meeting. He'd done a 24-hour flight from Seattle to Sydney and I was hosting him with 20 other CEOs in a hotel room in Sydney and he sat down and I'd just finished introducing him and he stood up and I thought, "Gee, the introduction wasn't that bad, Peter. C'mon".
And he was running a big business, he had about 30,000 people in his organisation. He had $10 billion in revenue, so the guy's pretty busy, and what he did was he stood up, he apologised to the room and said, "I'm really sorry, the most important thing I can give you right now is my full, complete and undivided attention". And with that, he took his cell phone, his mobile phone out of his top pocket, switched it off, went over, put it in his bag and sat down. Now, Joshua, what do you think happened for the 20 execs around the room when he did that?
Joshua: Very similar action. That would have been a repeated action with all of them doing the same thing to make sure they're giving the same level of respect that he'd just shown. Would that be fair to say?
Oscar: 17 out of the 20 people did exactly the same. I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to the other three and say they put it in flight mode or silent mode, or something like that but we're all listening teachers, whether that's teaching our kids how to listen or we're teachers in schools. Kids are watching us on how we listen. So how we turn up and how we role model is really important when it comes to listening.
When I speak on stage, a lot of people come up to me and go, "Hey, I'm really good at listening but my boss is terrible. What tips should I give my boss?" And I always say, "Just be a good listener for them. Role model great listening". Or parents will come up to me and go, "My kids don't listen to me. How can I teach them how to listen better?" I said, "You already are teaching them. They're just copying you".
Oscar: "You're their listening teacher". So, if there's one tip for the parents out there, bend down to your kid's eye level or if you can't do that, lift your kids up to your eye level and that will completely transform the way your kids listen to you. If you travel and if you're calling your kids or your FaceTiming your kids, same story. Don't stand up and pace and walk around the room while you're talking to them. Get your eye down to your eye level. That might mean sit on the bed in a hotel room. It might mean sit on the floor in a hotel room, but the very act of doing that brings your eyes to their eye level and there's a lot more empathy for what they're saying and how they're saying it.
But, if we're distracted, we can't do any of that. Now, back to the group, "Peter's permission group" as it became known, I asked the execs, after 45 minutes, Peter went to the next meeting. I had a half an hour debrief. And they all commented on the quality of the conversation.
You see, normally those conversations are not only dominated by technology on the table but they're dominated by technology in the conversation. And the reality is, everybody commented on the quality of the conversation. Now, Peter's permission group, that group of CEOs still meets about every six months and that's, what are we up to? Five years down the track. Now they get together, they have a bit of a giggle, mostly it's between five and eight people. They've all moved on to different jobs and things like that but they all have a giggle because when they start their meeting, they all go, put their phones off and call and say, "Thanks, Peter" and have the conversation.
Joshua: Conditioned response.
Oscar: There's a bit of a ripple effect there, but for a lot of us, we might turn up to customer meetings with a phone, buzzing in our pocket even though it's in vibrate mode versus the minute that happens, you're going to get distracted.
Oscar: You're going to move your mind there. For me, it's really simple, the minute I walk into the lobby, I switch my phone off, put it in my bag as I step towards reception. I take three deep breaths and when they offer me tea or coffee, I always ask for water for me and the people I'm seeing. Water, hydrating the brain because listening is a difficult task at the best of times. A hydrated brain is a listening brain. The blood's 26% of the blood sugar in the body. "Well done, mate, drink your water". It's only 5% of the body mass but it consumes 5x more, 26% of the blood sugars in the body. So, if we can help it out. And then simply breathing. Three deep breaths for 10 seconds each, you're going to completely transform your orientation.
So before we even begin listening to anybody else, Joshua, it's clearing the space in our own mind and being available to listen. That's critical whether we're parents, whether we're teachers, whether we're CEOs or business owners or whether we're in sales, all those things matter.
Joshua: I can say that, hearing what you've said, we use a tool called RescueTime on our computers, which let's you put your computer in for a spot where there is no distractions, you can't go to certain sites, you can't do anything, you can't be like, "I'll just check on the notifications on Facebook", "I'll just do this" and it blocks out any of those distractions. It still allows you to use some cloud tools if you're not in a position to be able to be in full flight mode.
And it's fantastic. It shows how utilised you were during the day, how distracted you were during the day and that's something that we use internally and we do talk to our customers about using. 'll say a story. I was in a job interview where we were interviewing someone in Melbourne and resume looked amazing. We thought, "This guy is the guy that we want" and he was in a setting no different to what I'm in at the moment, outdoors, on his deck, in a nice setting.
I'm talking to him and I'm asking him the interview questions and I'm making sure I'm asking him fair questions, so we normally start with five or six boilerplate questions, so we can see how each them answer those and then we move onto more detailed questions that are more granular and personalised to that person.
It was obviously a hotter day, so he had a couple of beads of sweat on his head and we're like, "That's fine. That's not a worry" but he had this one fly and it was buzzing around and kept buzzing around and kept buzzing around and I could not concentrate on anything he was saying because of that stupid fly. I'm looking going, "I've got to listen to what he's saying but can't he just get rid of the fly? He's just got to get rid of the fly?" And I knew he did not have a fair interview because I was so distracted by the fly on his head and it made me sort of really understand how can you ... I felt like saying, "I'm sorry, can you just remove the fly?" And I thought, "No, I don't want to say that, it sounds really rude".
I know myself, if I'm talking to someone and I'm right engaged with it and then I get off the phone and then my partner comes into the room and she says, "Hey, can you help me out with blah blah blah?" And I'm like, "Hold on, I've just got to digest everything that was said before I can focus on what you're saying, purely out of the respect".
I don't know if I's drawing three deep breaths for ten seconds but I definitely take a moment out, a moment to chill before I jump onto the next thing, so I know that a couple of things I'm doing but how can you make sure that people are bringing in the information that you're saying, they are listening, from both perspectives they are listening. What are tell-tale signs that someone is not listening and you should maybe cut the conversation short or expand upon that from the speaker's perspective as well as in from the listener's perspective, making sure you are listening and you're not just waiting to speak?
Oscar: So there's a big difference between hearing and listening. Listening is the willingness to have your mind changed. The difference between hearing and listening is the action you take as a result of something you heard. I want to come back to the job interview.
Oscar: I want to come back to the interview that you did and the fly during the interview. And I want to talk about the difference between rude and productive.
Joshua: Yes, okay.
Oscar: If you put yourself in that candidate's shoes right now, what would have been the most productive thing for you and for them, in that moment?
Joshua: For me? To have taken a pro-active approach and said, "Would you be able to sit somewhere else or get rid of that fly, please?" Because the meeting was more productive and fairer on him. From his perspective, he would have been well aware the fly was there. I don't think I come across as a big scary person but he obviously didn't ... I don't know why he didn't remove it. But I probably should have brought it to his attention, I guess.
Oscar: Listening is all about progressing the conversation, so in that case, it probably wasn't a great example of listening because you're completely distracted by the fly. For some of us, that fly is actually inside their own mind. You got an actual fly in your case but some of us hold assumptions really tight and it stops listening taking place so, in that moment, we could have simply said, "Wow, I sense it could be really frustrating for you right now with that fly. I reckon this interview will be more productive, if we make a decision about what we're going to do with that fly" and then kind of leave it to them. You're going to have a laugh about it. All of a sudden everything's a bit more relaxed, but I think, even though you continued that interview, you probably wasted all that time and his.
Oscar: As you said, he didn't get a fair go. So I want you just to think about, was it more rude to continue than it was to interrupt?
Joshua: Yeah, that's very true. I would say it was probably more rude to continue and waste our time. We've only got that time once on this earth, so probably more rude to have continued. I was not sure ... I was thinking where are his management skills that if he can't manage a fly on his head? And there's a lot of things going through my head that had nothing to do with the interview and I was thinking, how can you ... he's got to be able to control this and it's true, I should have interrupted and said it, as you said, in a very passive way that allowed him to rectify the situation, at least bring light to it in a light-hearted way and-
Oscar: Hey, if you're living in Australia and you're outside at this time of the year, there's a pretty good chance that there's going to be flies around you.
Joshua: I rude.
Oscar: Yeah, but rude could be slightly tempered down by us simply asking a question. "Hey, that fly seems to be frustrating for you. How do we want to handle it?" Which then could have prompted a question, "Have you ever had a customer like that? And how did you deal with them" kind of thing. You could make light of it. So, there's four villains of listening when we think about what are the villains of our listening behaviour. There are four villains. The easiest way to remember them is they're the "dils" of listening, the dramatic listener, the interrupting listener, the lost listener and the shrewd listener.
Oscar: So I want to spend a bit of time talking about these and then Joshua, tell me, which one of these you get really frustrated with. Which one of these listening villains frustrates you the most? Think of the worst listener you can think of right now, Joshua, and see which one of the four they might be. And for you, listening right now, the same thing. Think of the worst listener you can think of while Oscar goes through the dramatic, interrupting, lost and shrewd listener.
The dramatic listener loves your story. They love it. They listen intently, they listen for emotion, they listen for detail. The reason they're listening is to simply saw, "Oh, wow, you think you've got a tough boss, let me tell you about my boss. My boss is the worst boss. Here's the reason why". "You think you've got a tough merger happening right now in your organisation, I had a really tough merger. Oh, it was so terrible".
My favourite was Kathy who went to her boss and said, on a Monday morning, "Hey, can I have some time off, my grandmother's passed away. The funeral's on Wednesday". Twelve minutes later her boss finished and all her boss was saying, "Oh, I still haven't gotten over the fact that my grandmother passed away. It was an awful funeral. It tore me apart and I had this really important relationship with my granny, she was like my second mom". And then Kathy just said to her at the end of the 12 minutes, "So is it okay if I go to the funeral on Wednesday?"
Joshua: I shouldn't be laughing. That's terrible.
Oscar: Yeah, but a lot of us kind of know these dramatic listeners, they show up in social situations, they show up in the workplace. You see, listening is situational and it's relational. As you said earlier on, you listen differently to a doctor than you will to an accountant. You'll listen different to a police person, to a school principal, for example. And you'll listen differently to your children to your parents as an example. The next one is the interrupting listener. We love the interrupting listener.
Joshua: Actually, I know someone like this. Sorry, sorry, I had to do it. Go ahead.
Oscar: If only that was original, mate. Everybody does that when I talk about the interrupting listener.
Joshua: I bet.
Oscar: We love the interrupting listener because they're obvious, they're overt. The interrupting listener, the minute we draw breath to say our next sentence, they're in. They think it's their commercial break to give you the opinion you fully haven't articulated right now. And they're genuinely trying to help. They're speedy, they're pacy, they want to move things further forward faster, but what they miss out on is that they're not actually listening to the fullness of what everybody's saying.
And here's the next bit of science I want people to get connected with. I speak at 125 words a minute, but I can think at 900 words a minute. So, there's a 1 in 9 chance that what I say the first time is what I mean. So I go to the doctor probably too much, Joshua, at my stage in my life my good friend, Dr. John, he sees me twice a year and it's all preventative, thank goodness. But if Dr. John said to me, "Good news, Oscar, we're going to do surgery and you have an 11% chance of surviving", I'm asking for a second opinion.
Oscar: At 11%, not good odds for me, but all of us, everyday take the first thing that people say as what they think, because we don't understand the 125/900 rule. There's 800 other words stuck in their head. And if we just paused, if you know someone who's an interrupting listener, you'd love them to pause and work with silence if they'd just waited and said something as simple as, "Tell me more" or "What else?" Couple of really simple three-word phrases, then what happens is these magic code words come out, Joshua.
Particularly relevant if you're in a sales situation, people will say things like, "Mmm, well, actually now that I think about it a bit more, the most important thing we should discuss is ...", "Now that I've thought about it a little longer, um, the critical thing we need to focus on is this", "Now that I've thought about it a little longer, yeah, we need to actually speak about my boss".
Whatever it is, saying, "What else?" or "Tell me more" just gets those other 800 words out and that's what the interrupting listeners miss out on. Now, you role modelled the lost listener beautifully when you were talking about your dad's example. The lost listener is kind of trying to figure out where do they fit in the conversation and they just drift along in the dialogue. They are distracted by internal distractions but the other thing a lost listener can be is distracted by external distractions, laptops, mobile phones, other things that buzz and beep. It could be visual distractions in a coffee shop, for example, or it could be something else that's distracting you externally. So that's the lost listener.
Sometimes they turn up to a meeting because they're invited and they're working out in the first 10 minutes, if I just listen, I can figure out why I've been invited to this meeting as opposed to them simply saying, "Hey, before we go any further, how would you like me to contribute to this meeting?" And then all of a sudden the lost listener's found their position.
The last one is the shrewd listener. The shrewd listener does a lot of this, they stroke their chin or they put their hand on their cheek. They listen intently. They tilt their head to the side, they give you lots of good, "mm-hmm"-
Oscar: "Mm-hmm, tell me more". If you were reading the subtitles or the captioning for what's going on in their brain, now this shrewd listener is disproportionately represented in sellers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, anybody who takes a brief, market researchers, advertising agencies, anybody who's got to ask questions for a diagnosis. What's going through their head is, "Really, that's your problem. I can think about three other problems that are going to come up that you haven't thought about but I guess I'm going to stay here and listen to you drone on because I'm an expert in my field and I am so amazing I'm going to pretend that I'm listening". In fact, Joshua just did it right then.
Joshua: I did, didn't I? I was going to say, you're familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect?
Oscar: Yes, I am but is everybody in the audience familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect?
Joshua: The Dunning-Kruger effect is when someone knows, and I'd love for you to correct me if I am saying it incorrectly, but when who knows a small amount about something, they become overconfident in the belief that they know everything about everything and so they start learning a little bit more and then they have this lack of confidence around how much they know and it takes a very long time to build up a level of competency and experience to a spot where you're able to talk about it and you feel comfortable talking about it. Would that be fair to say?
Oscar: Yeah, that's a pretty good summary.
Oscar: And I think for the shrewd listener, what happens while they're pretending to listen and telling themselves how awesome they are and anticipating the next three problems, they're forgetting to listen to what actually is the first problem. They're kind of diagnosing a problem that the person mightn't have because they're trying to explain just a lower-order problem there.
For a lot of us who are sellers of anything, we're all in the business of selling ideas, whether we get paid for it or not as an example. If we're not careful, we can lose the person we're engaging with because whether we think we're giving a beautiful engaged face and giving lots of good "ah-hums" and "ah-has", humans instinctively know with no training whatsoever whether you're really listening or not. And one of the things that is riveting for me is the statistic that says 86% of us think we're above-average car drivers.
Oscar: 81% of us think we're above-average IQ.
Oscar: And 83% of us think we're above-average listeners. Statistically impossible. Only 50% of people can be above the average and the reality is most of us don't know what good listening is because we've never been taught. Only 2% of the population has been taught how to listen effectively. So, I'm curious, Joshua, which one of those listening villains frustrated you the most? Was it the dramatic listener, the interrupting listener, the lost listener or the shrewd listener?
Joshua: Pretty hard to one because I think it's situational. If I'm doing a presentation on stage and I see the, "mm-hmm, mm-hmm" okay, "mm-hmm" it's hard to know if they are actually listening, if they're judging you, if they feel they know more about it, or if they're incredibly engaged, so that frustrates me because I'm thinking, "Am I saying things?" Because when you're up on stage, or you're doing a presentation to 10 or 50 business owners or whatever it is, you can pivot the situation to be more relevant to everyone, if they're able to give you feedback on what you're saying. And when they're sitting there doing that, I find that that frustrates me in that situation.
Oscar: And you pointed out that listening is situational and it's relational. People listen differently in different ways, so at home, I'm the lost listener, and at work, I'm the shrewd listener. I'm forever going, "Wow, you really are struggling with listening, aren't you? You're really struggling with distraction". You know, in my head, I've got these sophisticated five levels of listening, listening to yourself, listening to the content, listening to the context, listening for what's unsaid, you know. That's how Yoda would talk about listening.
And then finally listening for meaning but I'm not listening to their problem because I'm a shrewd listener. When it comes to home, I hear all the stories that your dad tells. That happens in my family, with my in-laws, with my out-laws, with the extended family, I can tell you a lot about 13A Orchard Road in Johannesburg where my in-laws grew up, I could paint a picture, I've heard so much intricate detail about that place and sometimes I just get lost.
I'm far from a perfect listener. All I know is when I'm distracted, I'm able to get in a conversation faster. The other thing I always say that people are quite surprised, "Hey, Joshua, forgive me. I got distracted, do you mind saying that again?" And if I say it genuinely, rather than three times in a row, what they normally do is they nod and smile and as one human to another, they know that they've done it themselves, and they go, "Yeah, sure, let me explain that" and they probably explain it in a slightly different way. They've thought about how to explain it a little bit more. One of the responsibilities for the speaker when it comes to listening is to be interesting.
Oscar: So tell stories and use statistics. Don't do only stories and only statistics because 50% of people have preference for the big picture and pictures and 50% of people have a preference for details and statistics. So, if you can mix that up, you're going to be an engaging speaker along the way. You'll in fact remember nothing of what I've said today, only the story of Peter and Peter's permission club.
Joshua: Well, I know myself, I have an engineering background so I love numbers and statistics, but everyone else doesn't.
Joshua: You need to be aware of that and make sure you are gearing to the ears that are to be listening and making sure that that is information they're ready to receive and potentially the words that they're feeling within, you said, the 900 words that they're feeling are words that are relevant or words that are possibly going to be having them ask a question about instead of having just sit there-
Oscar: And drift away.
Joshua: I know myself at school, one of the worst things that I ever did was listen intently and having no clue about what they were talking about. I was sitting there in class and I was sick for around a couple of weeks, had a couple of weeks off and so I jumped in and, I'll make up this part of the story because I can't remember exactly what the subject was.
Let's say we were talking about matrices or quadratic equations in mathematics, and I jumped in and I went, I don't want to look stupid. I put my hand up because everyone else is listening intently and I don't want to put my hand up and look like an idiot, so I'm just going to sit here, in my silence, trying to listen as much as possible but not really understanding what they're saying at all, and that is something where I should have put my hand up and said, "Hey, while I am listening or trying my best, I'm hearing what you're saying, I'm not really understanding it, it's not sinking in, it's not relevant to me and therefore it is coming in and disappearing. And that is something that, especially, like you're saying in meetings and things like that, if people are in there and they're asking questions, ask questions at the end or ask questions when you don't understand something to make the person ask, "Can you remove the fly, please?"
Oscar: Yeah, please.
Joshua: So that it is relevant. The reptilian brain, you'd be familiar with the reptilian brain?
Joshua: I described the Dunning-Kruger effect. I'd love you to describe the reptilian brain. I'm going to go into a couple of details about that.
Oscar: Yeah, well the reptilian brain is the most primitive part of our brain. It's the bit that connects from the back of the neck into the skull, right into the most elemental parts of what it means to be human, and in this part of the brain, is the part of the brain that deals with fear, it deals with emotion, it deals with our survival instincts, it talks about fight and flight.
Unfortunately, it overrides anything that happens in the more modern part of the brain which is literally towards the front of the skull, the pre-frontal cortex where the majority of the listening function actually takes place, so you will completely be overridden if you're in a state of fear or you don't want to be participating in this conversation. Fear will override your ability to listen and literally short circuit your listening capability. You will check out of the conversation, if you're not feeling like this conversation is a conversation that's productive for you.
Joshua: You've touched on exactly where I was going with it. With making sure your conversation is relevant and see it doesn't have to be necessarily as you said, "I'm scared of someone", it could be scared of not knowing. So, for myself, you can't see how much I'm talking with my hands underneath here but there's a lot, there's a lot of talking going down here. As I was saying, a bit of the Italian coming out in me.
The fear of not knowing, or myself in a technical position, if I said, "Oh, look, you need to upgrade the fibre connection because it's not going to allow for the data to be pushed offsite with the speed of the rate that you've got because the input/outputs per second are not going to cope with the calls you have coming in from your SQL database to be able to have the data backed up incrementally, it should be sent off to be sent offsite" and someone goes, "Hold on" instead of just saying, "To have business integrity, you really need to have a faster internet connection" which can mean exactly the same thing in shorter words. You can have a discomfort and that can create fear. Would you agree with that, with the way that people are listening and the way that the words are spoken?
Oscar: Yeah, a lot of that comes up actually when people ask "why" questions too early in a relationship or too early in a project or too early in a conversation, whether I've spoken to telephone-based suicide counsellors or FBI hostage negotiators, the quickest way to get a reaction from people that's fear-based is to ask questions about why.
Now there may be a perfectly neutral question to use so, "Why are we here today?" But you've got to remember the first time you ever heard somebody say, "Why did you do that?" was probably between three and five, you spilled some milk, you smashed a glass and your brain codes, when somebody says "why", I've done something bad, it's an issue.
Now you can ask those questions without the pretext of a why question but assume many people early on in a conversation, in a relationship, in a discussion, in a sales opportunity, in a project ask why-based questions, why-based questions will tap really fast into the amygdala, that's the part of the brain that's connected at the back there to the most primitive part of the brain, and you're not going to get a productive conversation, as opposed to, I can get exactly the same answer if I was to say to somebody, "So, how long have you been thinking about this problem, project, system," whatever the case may be.
And all of a sudden you can ask exactly the same question in a how-based orientation and they're going to start to speak from the front of their brain in a relaxed state and they're literally going to describe a story, "Well, we've been thinking about this for three days, three weeks, three months, three years" who knows? And then ask them to fill in the details then that will become a productive conversation. And the reason it becomes productive is you know the back story. Coming back to Joshua's story at school, the reason he couldn't join the dots, he didn't have the back story of that one little bitty information he missed out on because he wasn't there four weeks before because he was ill.
For a lot of us, we make so many assumptions because we don't know the back story and again something I'm quite famous for in a conversation is, "Look, I'm really sorry, I feel like I've joined the conversation half way through the movie. Can we just go back to the beginning because I'm missing out on how some of these characters are connected". They all smile and they're all happy to tell me the story and yet in telling the story, they start to discover different things they hadn't thought about because they go back and then they go, "Oh wow, actually ... "
And a lot of the times they'll tell you why the project started and maybe why it was a result of a failed project. And all of a sudden, we have a much more interesting and productive conversation. I was talking to a person who ran an advertising agency only four weeks ago, and we were having this conversation, and he did this, he smacked himself in the forehead and he said, "This just happened to me, Oscar. We have re-briefed, briefed again, we've seen the client three times since we signed on the dotted line and what we thought was the project, in fact has changed three times in only two weeks. If we would have asked for the back story, we wouldn't have wasted all this money that I can't charge the client for because I didn't ask these questions at the beginning".
He said, "I'll breakeven on the job. It's hardly worth my while but if I just took a little bit more time to ask that question at the beginning, it would have been a different outcome for me" and I said, "You know what? It would have been a much more different outcome for your client as well because, they're getting a bit frustrated with briefing you three times as well because they thought you weren't listening. Now I know you were but you just sometimes got to ask for the back story even if you feel like it might take a bit of skin off your finger in that moment or take a bit of your reputation away because you feel like it's a question you feel you should know the answer to. Sometimes the experts in the industry ask the simplest questions. So, sometimes the simplest question is, "Hey, when did this project start?"
Joshua: I think we've all been in a situation like that. I myself listened to someone and they said, "We need to have our server migrated. We need to this, we need to do this" and I went through and "Okay, okay, okay, cool, yeah, we can do that". I didn't ask why they wanted to migrate it, what was the end result, what was their ability, this was years ago. But what was their end result. What was their want to get out of this project?
The server migration, we charged them 30 hours. It took 120 hours to migrate everything. And we said, "Well, we're not going to charge them that. We said the price, that's the price. So, we're sticking to the price even though it was costing us money to do it, we thought, it's principles, we're going to give it to them what they said".
At the end of the conversation, we sat down and went through everything. They said, "Oh, you migrated that. We don't even hardly use it" and I was like 80 hours of the time. And we went, "All right, okay, ask more questions. Understand what is important to them and make sure that you are using that information so that there is, well, as you said, "more profit in business, more relationships built". They were happy, everything was migrated but we would have been happier if we didn't run into the red so much. I know that you've got a new book coming out, is that right?
Oscar: Oh, we're up to book number three now, so Book #1 is called Breakthroughs: How to Confront your Assumptions. Book #2 is Deep Listening: Impact beyond Words. Book #3, The 125/400 Rule. My wife says it'll be engraved on my tombstone, I say it so often. There's a whole group of resources for those of you listening, if you want to make progress as a listener, if you want to get the deep-listening playing cards to have some fun with you or your team, if you want to use the deep-listening jigsaw puzzle, if you want to access interviews with FBI hostage negotiators or the world champion sniper from 2012 and they teach you about how to focus when you can't be distracted. In your mind right now, Joshua, please tell me your description of the world champion sniper. What do they look like?
Joshua: What do they look like? I would imagine not what they look like in a movie. I'd say that's over-dramatised. Probably quite an analytical type person I'd imagine would look. The word frail wouldn't be right but if we had a look and we generalised two different types of IT people. There's the energy drink IT person that lives in their mother's basement, sits quite large. Then there's the vegetarian IT person that has no muscle mass whatsoever. I would have said probably the no muscle mass type person that's sitting there.
Oscar: How tall?
Joshua: How tall? Above average, I'd say.
Oscar: Above average height? Man or a woman?
Joshua: Okay, again, all my information coming from movies so probably a man, I guess.
Oscar: And which country would you get them from?
Joshua: Most politically correct answer would be America.
Oscar: Well, here's the reality. Christina is from Sweden. She was the 2012 world sniper champion, and for a lot of us, we've just learned a huge lesson in assumptions.
Joshua: Absolutely. I thought their army was just ... I thought they couldn't have because they have these tiny knives, the Swiss Army knives. They can't. That's fantastic, okay.
Oscar: So, we interview a whole range of people like high court judges, air traffic controllers, palliative care nurses who are listening at the end of people's lives on how to interact between doctors and the family and a person who's passing away. So there's a whole range of listening experts that can give you one to three hacks on how to listen during the episodes. Check that out. So if you visit listeningmyths.com, you can get access to all that information. If you want to take the 90-day deep listening challenge, you can visit listeningmyths.com and do that too.
We're just about to launch the assessment that can answer 20 questions and find out which one of the four listening villains you are.
Joshua: I'm going to be taking that test because as you were going through the different villains I was trying to think who am I? We will put a link down to your podcast as well as to some of those awesome resources people would have a look at.
Oscar: Look, you've given me the greatest gift of all today, you've given me the gift of listening to me and help me on the quest to create a little bit more on this journey towards 100 million deep listener in the world. So, thank you.
Joshua: Well, thank you Oscar for being here and allowing us to do this. I've learned lots. I hope our listeners have learned lots and I'm looking forward to reading your next book when it comes out.
Oscar: Yeah, pop into listeningmyths.com, Joshua, and you'll be added on the journey there as well.
Joshua: Awesome. We'll put the link to that below. Is there anything else you'd like to talk about that I could listen in on along with our listeners before we jump?
Oscar: Look, if there's one book I could recommend for everybody on the journey to improving as a listener would be Atomic Habits by James Clear. It's a book about habit formation. It's one of the best written business books I've read in the last 35 years. It's very clear, it's very explicit and he breaks down habits into their most atomic elements, their smallest elements to make you successful. So, if you get a chance, James Clear, Atomic Habits, it's a book I spent a lot of time with because one of the big struggles for people is listening is a skill, it's a strategy, but ultimately it's a practise. You're never going to get perfect at it but you want to make a little bit of improvement along the way. So my recommendation to you and all your fans that are listening to you is Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Joshua: All right. Okay, cool. Well, it's been lovely having you here, Oscar and I'm looking forward to reading the next book, jumping into James's book Atomic Habits and speaking with you again soon in the future.
Oscar: Well, thanks for listening.
Joshua: Thank you and stay good.